Police officers across UK fall silent to honour murdered Sgt Matt Ratana after he was shot dead by handcuffed suspect as Met chief Cressida Dick and his colleagues pay tribute to ‘gentle giant’ with ‘ready smile and a big heart’
- Sgt Matt Ratana, 54, was shot as he was preparing to search handcuffed suspect named as Louis De Zoysa
- De Zoysa allegedly managed to smuggle revolver into the custody suite in Croydon, south London, last month
- Colleagues from across the country paid tribute to Sgt Ratana, who they said was part of the ‘police family’
Police officers across the UK have fallen silent to remember ‘gentle giant’ Metropolitan Police Sergeant Matt Ratana who was shot ‘several times’ by a suspect in handcuffs inside a police station.
The 54-year-old was shot as he was preparing to search a handcuffed suspect – widely named as Louis De Zoysa, 23 – who had managed to smuggle a revolver into the custody suite in Croydon, south London on September 25.
He was rushed to hospital after the shooting at 2.15am last Friday – but was tragically pronounced dead after fighting for his life for two hours.
At 11am, colleagues from across the country paid tribute to Sgt Ratana, calling him a close friend who was part of the ‘police family’.
Officers up and down Britain observed a minutes silence in memory of Sgt Ratana with many forces sharing images of their solemn tributes to social media.
Police in Swansea, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Fenland, Surrey were among those who shared pictures of their officers taking part in the memorial – lead by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick who bowed her head outside the London force’s HQ.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick (centre), Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave (left) and Robin Wilkinson, Chief of Corporate Services, Metropolitan Police Service, observe a minute’s silence for police officer Sergeant Matt Ratana at the Empress State Building, London, today
Police and forensics officers working at the home of suspect Louis De Zoysa also took part in the minute’s silence by standing outside the Norbury, London property
Officers behind police tape stand in a minutes silence for fallen comrade Matt Ratana outside De Zoysa’s Norbury home today
Sgt Ratana receiving a long and good service medal from the Commissioner Cressida Dick on May 31 2017. Paying tribute to Sgt Ratana, Dame Cressida told the Evening Standard : ‘Matt was a great police officer. He was a fine skipper — our word for a sergeant — and a lovely man, with a ready smile and a big heart.
Ratana’s partner Su Bushby (pictured together) paid tribute to her ‘friend, confidant, support and soul mate’ in a statement released last month
Police officers hang their heads in a sollemn tribute to Sgt Ratana at the National Police Memorial in London at 11 am this morning
Police in Swansea, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Fenland, Surrey were among those who shared pictures of their officers taking part in the memorial – lead by Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida
Avon and Somerset Police held a minute’s silence to remember Sgt Ratana today. The 54-year-old was shot as he was preparing to search a handcuffed suspect – widely named as Louis De Zoysa, 23 – who had managed to smuggle a revolver into the custody suite in Croydon, south London on September 25
In Surrey, officers stood outside with their heads bowed – some wearing uniform – to remeber Sgt Ratana who was killed last month
British Transport Police in the East Midlands shared a series of photographs of officers – as well as a police dog – during the silence
Paying tribute to Sgt Ratana, Dame Cressida told the Evening Standard: ‘Matt was a great police officer. He was a fine skipper — our word for a sergeant — and a lovely man, with a ready smile and a big heart.
‘As his partner, Su, described Matt, he was a real “gentle giant”.’
British Transport Police in the West Midlands said their ‘thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues’ while BTP in North Scotland also paid their respects.
Police and forensics officers working at the home of suspect De Zoysa also took part in the minute’s silence by standing outside the Norbury, London property.
Hackney police tweeted a picture of a vigil with candles and flowers that was held in honour of Sgt Ratana by officers on the night shift on Thursday.
PC Paul Reading, of the Metropolitan Police, said Sgt Ratana was well loved by all and even criminals liked him.
‘Everyone liked him, even people he arrested,’ he said.
PC Reading had known Sgt Ratana, who was born in New Zealand, since 2008 when both were based at Harrow Road.
British Transport Police in Birmingham shared a picture of officers paying a solemn tribute to Sgt Ratana today
British Transport Police officers in the East Midlands took a photograph outside a Peterborough police station during their tribute
Officers were seen standing in a row with their heads bowed during the minute-long tribute to Sgt Ratana earlier today
In a touching tribute to his friend, he said the officer would regularly visit the station while off duty because he ‘always wanted to be around his police family’.
‘He was a real approachable man, he looked after his team,’ he said.
‘He was your typical, big, strong Kiwi rugby player and he was so proud of his heritage.’
He said Sgt Ratana was dedicated to his job, adding: ‘He was your old-fashioned copper, very fair, very firm, and he would treat everyone like you would want your parents to be treated.’
Sgt Gareth Starr, who worked with Sgt Ratana in Paddington Green in 2007 and later in custody, described his devastation at receiving a phone call telling him his colleague and family friend had been shot.
‘It’s had a huge impact on everybody, even our own children that watch their parents go out to work every day thinking that that could be us,’ he said.
Speaking about how Sgt Ratana’s death has affected the police force, he said: ‘It’s been very sombre.
‘Matt appears a lot, whether we’re on social media reading the news, he didn’t ever leave us anyway and we’d often talk of Matt in the office where I’ve got colleagues who have worked with him over the years sharing stories, laughing.
Officers stood outside Milton Keynes Police Station during the silence. Ratana was rushed to hospital after the shooting at 2.15am last Friday – but was tragically pronounced dead after fighting for his life for two hours
In Swansea, Gorsein officers joined their Metropolitan Police colleagues to pay tribute to Sgt Ratana. South Wales Police’s Twitter account shared this image
Alvaston Police stood socially-distanced during the minute-long silence. Sgt Ratana was shot at Croydon Custody Centre in south London in the early hours of Friday September 25 as he prepared to search a handcuffed suspect
British Transport Police in North Scotland also paid tribute to Sgt Ratana, saying their thoughts are with his family, friends and colleagues
South Wales Police also shared sollemn pictures taken inside their station during the tribute. Several officers are seen with their heads lowered
Derbyshire Police shared a picture of a thin blue line to pay tribute to the sergeant. They called the silence a chance to ‘reflect and pay tribute’
Police in Durham stood outside in a socially-distanced arrangement during the silence this morning. Many officers were in uniform
Police officers in Hinckley Road – a division of Leicester Police – also held a minute’s silence for Sergeant Ratana today
‘It’s had a huge impact, it’s dumbed down everything we do, without a shadow of a doubt.
‘We’re just very sombre and very solemn, it’s just terribly sad. You don’t get two Matts.’
On Sgt Ratana’s personality, he said: ‘I’ll always remember his huge smile and his huge stature, and he always gave you a cuddle.’
As an officer who specialises in police safety, Sergeant Starr said it is ‘incredibly difficult’ to keep officers safe.
‘In the environment he (Sgt Ratana) was working in, it’s a dangerous environment, and we have to keep that at the forefront of our mind all the time.
‘There are people out there who want to do us harm for the job that we do to protect others.
‘Unfortunately Matt’s paid that price by no fault of his own, by being where he was, doing what he loved and doing it really well.’
Sergeant Chris Excell, a custody officer who worked alongside Sgt Ratana and had known him for 12 years, described him as a friend as well as a mentor.
When he heard the news of Sgt Ratana’s death, he said he was in disbelief, adding: ‘It doesn’t feel real yet, we all used to talk about him while he was still here.
‘Matt was really good at being caring and compassionate, he was an exemplary officer.’
All three officers described how Sgt Ratana was a big foodie, with an infectious laugh, who would love to rugby-tackle his peers in the hallway of stations.
Police in Swansea were also pictured outside their station, bowing their heads during the tribute. The force’s Twitter account said their ‘thoughts and sincerest condolences’ remain with his family, friends and collegues
South Wales Police also shared this sollemn black and white picture showing the minute’s silence today. Ratana is the eighth officer to be shot dead in Britain over the last 20-years
Police in Cleveland, Middlesbrough, also stood outside for the tribute. How a suspect managed to smuggle in a firearm is now the focus for an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct
Officers up and down Britain observed a minutes silence in memory of Sgt Ratana with many forces sharing images of their solemn tributes to social media. Pictured: Kent Swale Police
‘I remember the last thing he said to me was ‘a rubbish day only lasts 24 hours’,’ Sgt Excell added.
Described as a ‘remarkable rugby hero’, Sgt Ratana was also honoured by members of East Grinstead RFC based in West Sussex, where the officer was head coach.
The club laid a blue and white club wreath at Croydon Custody Centre on Wednesday, and will be flying their flag alongside the New Zealand flag and the All Blacks rugby team flag to honour Sgt Ratana’s Kiwi roots.
Club president Andy Poole said: ‘As a head coach for the last three seasons and a personal friend to me and so many others at the club, Matt was always bringing in new and exciting ideas and was a true role model, mentor and often father figure.
‘A Kiwi with an infectious laugh, who loved to chat, making time for anyone who crossed his path.’
An inquest opened at Croydon Coroner’s Court on Thursday heard that Sgt Ratana had suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and died at St George’s Hospital in Tooting.
The suspect was first detained by police in Pollards Hill in south London at 1.30am last Friday, before being handcuffed and taken into custody on suspicion of the possession of ammunition and a class B drug.
The suspect, widely reported to be 23-year-old De Zoysa, was also injured in the incident and remains critically ill in hospital and police are yet to speak to him. He was not named at the inquest hearing.
Detective Superintendent Nick Blackburn said the weapon was discharged ‘several times’.
A revolver was later recovered from the scene.
He told the inquest the suspect was first detained by police in Pollards Hill in south London at 1.30am.
The suspect was handcuffed and taken into custody on suspicion of the possession of ammunition and a class B drug.
He said: ‘Upon arrival (at Croydon custody centre), he (the suspect) was taken to a holding room where he remained in handcuffs.
‘The custody sergeant, Matt Ratana, entered the holding room.
‘The suspect discharged the weapon several times, during which the sergeant and the suspect were injured.’
The inquest heard Mr Ratana was taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting but he was pronounced dead at 4.20am.
Mr Blackman said the preliminary cause of death given following the post-mortem examination was a gunshot wound to the chest.
No members of Mr Ratana’s family, including his partner Su Bushby, were present for the hearing. Mr Ratana’s son in Australia wanted to listen in remotely but the technology failed.
Sarah Ormond-Walshe, senior coroner for south London, adjourned the hearing until a further date.
The Metropolitan Police officer of almost 30 years has been described as someone who epitomised the role police play in protecting others and, as head coach at East Grinstead Rugby Club, was said to be an ‘irreplaceable figure’.
Ms Bushby paid tribute to her ‘friend, confidant, support and soul mate’ in a statement released last month.
She said: ‘There aren’t really any words for how I am feeling right now about the loss of Matt; about losing someone I loved, and was so close to, in such a tragic manner.
‘I know Matt touched many, many people’s lives with his friendliness, patience, kindness, enthusiasm and caring ways.
‘I had the pleasure of sharing five years of my life with this lovely man – my gentle giant, with his infectious smile and big heart. I think of him with tenderness and love.’
Dame Cressida hosted New Zealand High Commissioner to London Bede Corry in an emotional visit to lay a wreath at the scene in memory of the police officer and countryman this week.
Police said on Tuesday that investigators have been unable to speak to De Zoysa who remains in hospital in a critical condition.
Officers have been searching several areas including derelict buildings and 30 acres of land in Banstead, Surrey, and an address believed to be the suspect’s family home in Norbury, southwest London.
Specialist detectives are leading the inquiry which police say is not a counter terrorism investigation.
A second person was arrested on suspicion of supplying a firearm and bailed pending further enquiries to a date in late October.
In a statement released on Tuesday, DAC Stuart Cundy said: ‘The murder of Sgt Ratana sent shockwaves through the Metropolitan Police Service. Nevertheless his colleagues are determined to find justice for him and his family.’
He is the eighth officer to be shot dead in Britain over the last 20-years.
How a suspect managed to smuggle in a firearm is now the focus for an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct.
The IOPC has obtained CCTV footage from the custody centre and body-worn camera footage from the officers who were present during the shooting.
The man accused of shooting him was referred to the government’s Prevent programme, aimed at stopping people joining extremist groups and carrying out terrorist activities.
However, police have stressed that the investigation into Sgt Ratana’s death is currently a murder probe and not a counter-terrorism one.
De Zoysa was described as a ‘maths geek’ who was ‘good with weapons’ and ‘could have gone to Oxbridge’ by former friends writing in a yearbook for the John Fisher School, a 1000 pupil Roman Catholic boy’s comprehensive in Purley, South London.
He attended the school between 2008 and 2015.
Police are continuing to sift through the end-terrace home in Norbury he is believed to have lived in with his mother Elizabeth, a translator who ran as a Green candidate in local elections, and his Sri Lankan father Channa, a former yoga teacher said to be passionate about recycling who repairs bicycles for free.
The Catholic couple, who run an events company, have five children and neighbours said police were often seen at the address.
The family home is one of two sites being investigated. The other is a farm in Banstead, Surrey.
The 56-acre Courtlands Farm was an ammunitions dump in the Second World War which has a number of outbuildings as well as a farmhouse and adjoining bungalow.
A second suspect arrested in Norwich in Norfolk on Sunday on suspicion of supplying a firearm has been granted bail pending further enquiries.
He had been taken to a South London police station for questioning and has been bailed to a date later this month.
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